Cuckoo

Cuckoo

****

Reviewed by: Donald Munro

Set around a small cardiac research unit in what looks like the basement of a Victorian hospital, Cuckoo follow Polly (Laura Fraser) as she slips into mental illness. The question in the film is how much of what Polly is experiencing is real and how much is hallucination.

Writer/director Richard Bracewell uses Andrew Hewitt's eerie soundtrack, darkness and dead space to produce a disjointed, slightly disturbing viewing experience. The camera repeatedly dwells on certain images. With almost sexual obsession it observes the same embossed motif on a panel, the same curving symmetrical staircase from above. There is something Ballard-like about it. Sexual frustration runs through the film.

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Polly's relationship with her partner Chapman (Adam Fenton) is on its last legs. Her life is on the brink of changing. She may be leaving her job as a researcher and departing from her mentor Professor Julius Greengrass (Richard E Grant). Greengrass has to express his conflicted feelings for Polly - desire, concern and ambition for his protegé. Meanwhile, her relationship with her sister Jimi (Antonia Bernath) is rubbing the wrong way. When Chapman leaves, has the stress built beyond what Polly can bear? Is her mental state the cause of the break up or a symptom? She hears Chapman's voice around her flat, a hallucination - or can she really hear him? As Cuckoo progresses a number of things fall into place.

The actors playing the central characters all put in good performances and there's impressive work from Tamsin Greig who plays Simon, a laboratory technician. She performs her role perfectly, from the delight of acquiring a crystal radio reviver to the sense of loss when she accidentally confronts Greengrass. Had they been involved with each other or had they both missed the connection?

When you watch Cuckoo you require a little patience. It is a slow film. Despite there being a lot going on in it, often little appearers to be happening. It carefully builds Polly's world, which is sliding towards schizophrenia. At the end you can put most of the bits back together again. The camerawork and soundtrack are evocative and the script is seeded with enough little touches of humour to hold you. The only thing Cuckoo misses is that hospital smell of disinfectant and carbolic soap.

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2010
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Cuckoo packshot
A young woman struggles to retain her sanity as she has to cope with a cheating partner and an intrusive supervisor.
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Director: Richard Bracewell

Starring: Laura Fraser, Richard E Grant, Tamsin Greig, Antonia Bernath

Year: 2009

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

Glasgow 2010

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